Real Estate News for North Pinellas County

Archive for the 'Pasco County' Category

Pinellas County real estate: Demand UP, supply DOWN

If you are thinking about BUYING a home in Pinellas County, or if you are thinking about SELLING your home, here are a couple of very important things you need to know:

  • Sales are UP. A lot.
  • Listing inventory is DOWN.

Closed sales in April 2015 were 2,103, up almost 20 percent over April in 2014 (1756). At the same time, listing inventory for the same month was 7,566 units — DOWN 1.5 percent.

What does that mean? Well, it means a couple of things.  First, more buyers are chasing fewer available homes. And when demand exceeds supply like that, it pushes prices UP. And that’s exactly what’s happening in Pinellas County right now.

I have buyers right now who are frustrated because the houses they want to buy are simply not on the market.

So I have a couple of things to tell you: If you are a buyer, prices are going to be higher than they are right now. And if you are a seller, or a potential seller, this is a great time to get your home on the market. There’s a buyer out there right now who is ready to make you an offer.

 

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Pinellas County real estate becomes a sellers’ market

 

 

Here’s a recent development in real estate that I don’t think too many people would have predicted: In recent weeks, we’ve sort of quietly shifted from a buyers’ market to a seller’s market.

 That’s right, buyers are having to scramble to get good, solid, timely offers in on the homes they really want to buy. If they don’t, POOF! The house is gone to someone with quicker reflexes.

sold sign And this shift does not just apply to Pinellas County homes; it’s a phenomenon that’s being noticed across the country. The WALL STREET JOURNAL even wrote about it today.

 According to the JOURNAL, buyers are increasingly competing for homes, and even entering into bidding wars. I haven’t seen anything that I would describe as bidding wars locally, but I have had several buyers submitting offers above the asking price, knowing that the house of their dreams won’t stay on the market.

 According to the JOURNAL (and my own sense of what’s going on locally), this sellers’ market is not so much about increasing numbers of sales – it’s more about a lack of good, desirable properties on the market.

 It makes sense when you think about it. Sellers keep their homes off the market because of declining values. If someone owes $300,000 on a home that is now worth $200,000, why put it on the market if you don’t have to?

 And we are now about six years into the housing slump, which means a lot of homes that would have been sold in a more normal market have simply never been listed.

 And there’s another reason, too. Lenders have been extremely slow to put their foreclosed properties on the market. There’s plenty of foreclosed-upon, unoccupied homes out there, in this market and most others, but the lender-owners seem to fear more value declines if they put all those properties on the market.

 It’s a strange market, no doubt. But it is a market with many great opportunities, for buyers and sellers alike.

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That new Pinellas County home just got more affordable, thanks to historically low interest rates

     What is it with interest rates? They just seem to get lower and lower. Today’s rates are at historic lows. Is that stimulating home sales? It doesn’t seem so – not that much, anyway.
 intderest rate art    How low are interest rates? Right now they are as low as 3.90 percent, or even a bit lower. Last year at this time the average rates for a conventional 30-year mortgage loan were a little over 5 percent, and we thought that was breathtakingly low.
     It is the lowest that interest rates have ever been in this country.
     Just for comparison, rates four years ago were around 7 percent, and we thought that was pretty darn good.
     So, should you actually consider refinancing if you bought your house a year ago? Maybe so.
     Let’s say you bought your house last February, and you financed $200,000 at 5.05 percent. That would make your principal and interest payment $1,079.76.
     Refinance that same $200,000 amount now at 3.87 percent, and your principal and interest payment would drop to $939.90. That’s a monthly saving of $139.86, or 13 percent. Not bad.
     I spent many years in the mortgage business, before I returned to my first love, real estate sales. I know a lot about the ins and outs of home financing. If you have questions about your plans for buying and financing a home, get in touch and we’ll talk – 727-643-7100, or [email protected] .

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Ducks living happily in the middle of Dunedin real estate

One of the things I love most about Florida is all the birds. Some of them are pretty exotic, such as the cranes and flamingoes and the flocks of wild parrots that you see in some places. Others, like these two ducks, are commonplace just about anywhere, but still neat to watch and to photograph.

ducks 2These two ducks live in a marshy pond that is on the edge of a golf course right next to our Dunedin condo. Taking this picture involved stepping out the back door and walking maybe 20 steps to the end of the water. These guys must see enough golfers every day that they hardly took any note of my presence at all.

Usually the Christmas holidays bring the real estate business in Pinellas County to pretty much of a halt. That hasn’t really been the case this year. My phone has been ringing steadily — people were calling to look at property on Christmas Eve, and then again on the day after Christmas. Also, the entire month of December has been pretty busy. I’m not sure if that means anything in terms of trends, but I’m always happy to see an active Pinellas County real estate market, whatever the reason.

I do think we can expect a pretty active real estate period starting right after the New Year. Are you thinking about buying or selling a home in Pinellas County in the next few weeks or months? Now is a good time to get the ball rolling. Give me a call anytime at 727-643-7100, or e-mail me at [email protected].

Builders more confident about the future

 

 

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know we have been cautiously reporting some positive factors that seem to be contributing to a slowly-emerging, or improving, real estate market.

None of these things have been dramatic, but all of them have been positive – things like an improving employment picture, continuing low interest rates, and increases in the number of pending home sales.

Here’s one more thing to add to the list – an optimistic report from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

The NAHB reported this week that confidence among home builders is on the upswing when it comes to the construction of single-family homes.  The NAHB says it is the third consecutive month that builders have reported increased confidence in the future of single-family home construction.

 “While builder confidence remains low, the consistent gains registered over the past several months are an indication that pockets of recovery are slowly starting to emerge in scattered housing markets,” said NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen.

Nielsen had something else to say, also; he noted that new single-family home sales might be even better if lenders were a little freer with their money. Builders and home buyers are both being negatively impacted by tight credit restrictions, he said.

nahb logoNAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said buyers are still cautious because of the large inventories of foreclosed properties in many markets, and they also worry about continuing high unemployment ands the challenges of selling their existing homes.

Even so, Crowe said, “builders are reporting more inquiries and more interest among potential buyers than they have seen in previous months.”

The area of the country where builders are expressing the biggest boosts in confidence levels? Right here in the South.

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Florida birds

one legged birdOne thing I really love about living in Florida is the many species of birds that you see all the time – everything from flamingos to pelicans to wild parrots. We saw this little guy a few days ago when we stopped in Hudson Beach (that’s in Pasco County) for lunch after a listing presentation. I loved how he had one leg tucked up underneath himself as he stood in the water.

The Hacienda Hotel, once the jewel of New Port Richey, now slowly decays

The 1920s was a decade not unlike the last 10 years here in Florida; the economy was overheated, people (some people, anyway) had plenty of money, and the real estate market was going crazy. Investors were looking for new ways to make money. With all the people who were flooding into the state on vacation, the hotel business seemed like a pretty sure thing.

The Hacienda Hotel, once the jewel of downtown New Port Richey, Fla., now sits empty and forgotten

The Hacienda Hotel, once the jewel of downtown New Port Richey, Fla., now sits empty and forgotten

Hotels popped up all over the state, and some of them are still standing. One of those is the Hacienda Hotel in New Port Richey.

It seems a bit hard to believe now, but some people thought that Pasco County would be a likely spot for a sort of East Coast version of Hollywood. Some actors and movie producers of the day thought the west coast of Florida would be a natural movie-making site, and a number of silent movies were actually shot on location in the area.

Some of those Hollywood types joined with wealthy Pasco County people and hatched an idea for a swanky, Spanish–style, 100-room hotel in downtown New Port Richey, just a stone’s throw from the Pithlachascotee river.

Here is what the St. Petersburg TIMES said about the project in 1925:

The Hacienda's courtyard. That once-beautiful fountain has been seriously vandalized.

The Hacienda's courtyard. That once-beautiful fountain has been seriously vandalized.

“Plans have been set on foot at an enthusiastic meeting of New Port Richeyites for the construction of a 100-room fire-proof hotel. Within a few minutes after the meeting was called to order nearly the entire capital required was subscribed.

“The site selected is a tract overlooking the beautiful Pithlachascotee river, north of the Gulf high school building, and in the exact center of population. The site has the further advantage of being located within a short distance of the proposed station of the West Coast railway, now an assured fact.”

The article said the hotel would be of either Moorish or Spanish-style construction, and would cost about $150,000, pretty big bucks for the day.

A mural on the side of a downtown New Port Richey building depicts a 1920s party in the Hacienda's ballroom

A mural on the side of a downtown New Port Richey building depicts a 1920s party in the Hacienda's ballroom

James E. Meighan, one of the Hollywood types, donated the land. The final design called for a $250,000 building housing 50 rooms and including a steam-heating plant, an open-air dining room, and beams in the dining room and lobby. Ground was broken on Aug. 11, 1926, and the Hacienda’s first guests were welcomed 184 days later.

More than 800 people attended the grand opening on Feb. 5, 1927.

Some pretty famous folk visited or stayed at the Hacienda in those early years – Ring Lardner, Mrs. Arthur Hammerstein, attorney Clarence Darrow, and actress Gloria Swanson among them.

The hotel did reasonably well, and it managed to survive the Depression, which came along not too long after the Hacienda opened its doors. It changed hands a number of times over the years. By the time the 1950s came around, the hotel was being sold fairly regularly, and management changes were frequent. 

The Hacienda, from an old postcard

The Hacienda, from an old postcard

In 1985, the Hacienda was acquired by Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services Inc., and the facility became what would be known today as a group home or assisted living center. Later, it became a home for elderly people with mental disabilities.

The city of New Port Richey acquired the property in 2003. It has been vacant since 2006.

The old hotel looks pretty sad today. It would make a great boutique hotel, but restoration costs would probably be very high. If you know of any plans to resurrect the old Hacienda, please let me know.

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Colorful murals adorn New Port Richey real estate

If you’ve spent any time at all on this blog, you know that I like murals.  There’s quite a few of them to be found throughout Tampa Bay, and especially in the various communities of Pinellas County. I’ve written about them before.

Dancers in the Haienda Hotel in the 1920s, as depicted by Mura artist Chad Leninger

Dancers in the Hacienda Hotel in the 1920s, as depicted by mural artist Chad Leininger

Today, I found several of them in an unexpected place.

I live and work in North Pinellas County, and that’s where I do most of my real estate work — Palm Harbor real estate, Tarpon Springs real estate, Dunedin real estate, Clearwater real estate. I also list and sell Pasco County real estate, but I spend less time there than in North Pinellas County.

This morning, however, I had to go north to New Port Richey in Pasco County to look over a house that I may be listing for sale.  After that, I drove a few blocks to downtown New Port Richey, a place I haven’t visited for awhile.

Wha surprise — it was a treasure trove of murals.

One of them featured the Hacienda Hotel, a 1920s-era hotel that was very popular in its day but which has not served any guests for more than the past decade. I need to do a little research on the Hacienda, and when I do I’ll post a story. I like old hotels almost as much as I like murals.

This particular mural was painted on a side exterior wall of Juan’s Black Bean Cafe by a young artist named Chad Leininger. According to an old newspaper article, there are a total of six murals painted on various walls in downtown New Port Richey.

Most of the characters in the mural are local folk. But the artist included himself and some of his family members as well as actress Greta Garbo and baseball legend Babe Ruth. Can you spot them?

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Pinellas County homebuyers: Don’t miss the $8,000 first time homeowner tax credit

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suiAfys53aU[/youtube] 

    More than half of the people who plan to buy a home in the U.S. this year are first-time homebuyers. And ALL of them should look into the $8,000 tax credit that is being offered to first-time homebuyers this year by the federal government
 
      This is a pretty exciting to for first-time homebuyers to get into the market, what with very low prices and historically low interest rates. The $8,000 tax credit is just icing on the cake. It’s hard to imagine that such a “perfect storm” of home-buying advantages will come together again, at least in the lifetimes of most of us.

      Are people really aware of the first time homeowner tax credit? Apparently so – the IRS says that of all the 2008 tax returns filed by March 6, more than a half-million returns claimed the first-time home buyer credit.

      If the tax credit sounds good to you, don’t wait too long – it is only available until Dec. 1, 2009.

 Here are the nine most important things you need to know about the tax credit:

     1. The credit is available to all first-time buyers of any kind of home, new or re-sale.
 First time home buyers are defined as people who have not owned a residence during the three years prior to the purchase date.

     2. The tax credit is an amount of money equal to 10 percent of the home’s purchase price, up to a credit of $8,000.

     3. The income limit for a single taxpayer is $75,000; for married taxpayers filing jointly, income must not exceed $150,000.

     4. If you exceed the income limits, you may qualify for a partial tax credit.

     5. The tax credit does not have to be repaid. Previous tax credits were really interest-free loans.

     6. People who buy homes and claim the tax credit must use the home as a principal residence for at least three years. Those who fail to do that may have to pay the credit amount back to the government.

     7. Claim the tax credit on your federal income tax return by using IRS Form 5405. No other application or form is necessary.

     8. The credit may be claimed even if you have little or no federal income tax liability. An example: You had withholding in the amount of $4,000, but ended up owing taxes totaling $5,000. Normally, you would owe the government another $1,000 on top of what was withheld. However, if you purchased a home and claimed the tax credit, the IRS would send you a check for $7,000 – the $8,000 tax credit minus your $1,000 tax liability.

     9. The tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax liability. In other words, if you owed the IRS $8,000 in income taxes for 2008 and you claimed the $8,000 tax credit, you would owe the IRS nothing.

Want to know more? Take a few minutes to listen to an expert – Robert Dietz, the tax economist for the National Association of Home Builders. Click on the YouTube icon above.

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Chinese drywall causing problems in North Pinellas County and elsewhere

I had a disturbing call today from a good client who I sold a new town home to a couple of years ago. She told me that the home (which is in Tarpon Springs, in North Pinellas County) is one that was constructed with Chinese drywall.

Chinese sheetrock causing problems

Chinese sheetrock causing problems

If you don’t know about this Chinese drywall issue, here are a few facts:

Back in the height of the construction boom, around 2005 and 2006, there was so much new construction going on that American drywall manufacturers could not keep up with all the demand.  So builders began looking around for new sources.
They found it in China.

A LOT of Chinese drywall was imported into the U.S. around that time — maybe 10 million square feet of it. A good portion of it ended up in new homes being built in Florida.

Quite a few of those homes were built by Lennar Homes, including the town home purchased by my client.

What’s the problem?

All or most of that Chinese drywall appears to contain high amounts of sulphur and other materials that should not be there. When the drywall is exposed to dampness in the air, it begins to break down and emit a “rotten egg” smell.  The smell is not the only problem; it also corrodes electrical wiring, plumbing and air conditioning equipment.
And it also can cause some respiratory issues.

To their credit, Lennar Homes appears to be standing behind the homes they sold. In some cases, they are moving people out of the homes while they replace the sheetrock as well as the wiring and plumbing.

The problem is that we don’t know at this point what the scope of the problem is.  I saw a news story the other day that said about 300 homes in Florida had been identified as containing the Chinese sheetrock. With 10 million square feet of it having been sold in the US, the problem might be a good deal bigger than that.

I’ll be following the Chinese sheetrock issue and posting news about it here on the blog. Meanwhile, if you’ve had any experiences with the sheetrock, please tell us about it here in the “comments” section.

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